Short of money for training, national swimming champ threatens to sell medals
Sajan Prakash, the only swimmer from India to participate in the Rio Olympics, has threatened to auction his medals if he doesn’t get financial aid for high-altitude training in Spain.
Prakash, who won six gold and three silver medals at the Thiruvananthapuram national games, told Hindustan Times from Bengaluru that he is yet to get any financial assistance for competing in international events despite being nominated for the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).
“I spent around Rs 4 lakh from my pocket to participate in various events across Dubai, Thailand and Singapore in the last two months. Now I am all drained out. I have to participate in high-altitude training in Spain, for which I neither have funds nor a sponsor,” the 24-year-old swimming champion said.
Prakash alleged that big announcements made by the country’s administration for sportspersons mostly remain on paper. “We keep crying about the medal drought, but make no sincere efforts to groom budding sportspersons. We need proper training and international exposure. Just sending someone to a championship won’t do any good,” he said.
The swimmer claimed he even sought financial help from Union sports minister Rajwardhan Singh in a tweet, but received no response. “I am not here to make money. I want to make my country proud. But I can’t go on like this, without a sponsor or financial assistance,” he said.
News portal Sportskeeda had earlier published a report on the sportsperson’s tweet to Singh.
Prakash was an employee of the Indian Railways until a couple of months ago, when he quit to take up a police inspector’s job offered by the Kerala government. However, as his busy training schedule kept him from completing the required formalities with the police department, he is yet to get his salary or other state benefits.
The sportsperson said there were times he even contemplated hanging up his boots, but his mother – a former international athlete herself – convinced him to hang on. “But I don’t know who to turn to: the swimming federation or the Sports Authority of India,” he added.
Prakash’s mother, Shantimol, said it was sad to see him running pillar to post without much success. “But now, with no option in sight, I suggested that he sell some of his medals to generate funds,” she added.
Often called the Michael Phelps of India, Prakash had won a silver for India in the 100-metre butterfly event at the Asian Indoor Games. The TOPS programme, for which he was nominated, aims to identify and support potential medal prospects for the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games.